Summit Point, West Virginia (June 17, 2018) – From its debut professionally in the Mazda MX-5 Cup, the NC generation Mazda MX-5 has produced close racing. As evident by Sunday’s race at Summit Point, Round Six of the East Championship, that tradition has continued in the Spec MX-5 Challenge.
Four different drivers spent time in the lead during the 20-lap race, with a fifth (John Allen’s iRacing/Defined Autoworks Mazda MX-5) in that lead pack and reaching as high as second.
The first to the checkered flag, however, was Manny Martinez behind the wheel of the Island Motor Cars MX-5, crossing the stripe 0.116-second ahead of Jason Connole for his first win of the season.
Martinez, who had been close before in a pair of runner-up finishes in the opening four weekends, spent the morning studying to improve before passing his final exam with flying colors.
“Todd Lamb gave me some pointers in the morning on a couple of spots where I was struggling,” Martinez said. “My pace was a little better today. There were a couple of spots yesterday where I knew I was losing speed from following them, especially in turn six. That’s a very important corner on this track, because you’re racing full throttle from there until turn 10.”
With the speed where it needed to be, it came down to racecraft – no easy task when the race was nearly double the length of Saturday’s Round Five (jumping from 11 laps to 20).
Like Saturday’s race, locals Peter Ensor and Nick Bruni jumped out to the lead, running first and second, nose to tail, in an effort to get away from the field together. The pair did create a gap, with the three-car train of Allen, Martinez and Connole’s Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks MX-5 just a few car lengths behind.
That gap was erased on lap nine with some unfortunate luck, as Bruni caught a lapped car through turn 10, while the second group carried the full speed through the corner and onto the front straight. That small slow down turned a pair of small groups into one larger pack, and from there the race was on.
Allen separated slightly from the pack on lap 13 when he made side to side contact with Bruni in turn three, Ensor fell out of the pack on lap 15 when he carried too much speed into turn six. While both continued to close the gap in the closing laps, it would have taken a mistake by the podium finishers to open any doors.
Connole used the draft to overtake Bruni going into turn one on the final lap, and the pair stayed side by side through turn two. Martinez was able to lay back just enough to carry his momentum through those corners and around the dicing pair before turn three. That lead held through the final seven corners, with Martinez earning his first win of the season.
“That was the most intense race for me of the season, and probably all time,” Martinez said. “I started out in third, and fell back to fifth for a little while. We were just dicing the entire race. I had a little off-roading, me and Jason had some contact. It was just really intense.”
A runner-up finish by Connole protects his point lead, holding a three-point advantage over Martinez with four regular season rounds (and one dropped race) still to come.
“It was a tough race,” Connole said. “I was running second with one to go going into one, trying to do a crossover move on Bruni. We sent it in really hot and being side by side, we didn’t have enough of a run. Manny got the inside line, and I just fell in behind him.”
Bruni followed up a Saturday win with his second podium finish of the season, claiming third after starting on the outside of row one.
“Peter and I were able to hook up at the start,” Bruni said. “We started opening up a gap, but unfortunately we hit some lapped traffic and brought the rest of the field right back. We started dicing it up a bit. Not the day I wanted, but still happy to finish on the podium in third place.
“It feels good to come to come back and have some strong results this weekend. Hopefully we can take that momentum and carry it forward.”
Ensor and Allen completed the top five as the series crosses the halfway point. Ensor sits third, just behind Connole and Martinez, in the Championship points, while Allen, Month and Bruni are all dead even for fourth.
Each driver will be able to drop one regular season point value prior to entering the championship round at Road Atlanta in November. At that event, one driver in the combined East Series/Central Series battle will be granted a $100,000 scholarship toward the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup for the 2019 season.
More information on the Spec MX-5 Challenge can be found on the Series’ website at www.SpecMX-5.com.
Summit Point, West Virginia – Official Results of Sunday’s Spec MX-5 Challenge East Series Round Six, with finish position (start position), name, sponsor and car.
- (3), Manny Martinez, Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (5), Jason Connole, Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (2), Nick Bruni, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (1), Peter Ensor, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (4), John Allen, iRacing/Definied Autoworks/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (6), Zack Month, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (9), Tyler Harrell, JTC Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (7), Jose Garcia, KEEM Corp./Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (8), Assen Rachev, Stable Energies/Possien-Hall Motorsports Development/BGN Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5